Cape Town - English football could be set for a major shake-up after the Football League announced a proposal to add a fifth division ahead of the 2019/20 season.
Should the proposal be accepted, it will be the biggest change to the English football pyramid since the creation of the Premier League.
The move would see England expand from 92 clubs in four divisions to 100 clubs in five divisions and has been touted as a way to reduce costs and help Football League clubs make increased profits, and remove the need for midweek fixtures. A statement from the Football League read: "Under the proposal, The Football League would become a four division competition below the Premier League, including a new League Three, with 100 clubs competing across the professional game. In addition, the League Cup and League Trophy will be retained with the latter potentially having a revised format include a group structure of three games before becoming a knockout competition thereafter." It has been reported that the Premier League and the Football Association have backed the proposal "in principle".The Football League's stated objectives with the proposal are:
- To maximize the number of weekend/Bank Holiday league fixtures;
- To remove where practical fixture congestion and scheduling conflicts;
- To protect/improve financial distributions/income generation for Football League clubs;
- To maintain the Football League Play-Off Finals as the last event of the domestic season.
The Football League believes that benefits of the new system include:- The importance of each individual fixture will increase;
- Reduced travel costs to four games which are often at a distance;
- Midweek travel for fans vastly reduced.
- Potential to reduce squad size;
- Increased importance of reserve team football;
- Enhanced recovery time/match preparation.
- Increase in sale of season tickets due to reduction in midweek games;
- Increased profile on League One, Two & Three at different stages of the season;
- Statistically greater chance of promotion (and relegation);
- At least six new Clubs (30%) to play each season.
- No relegation out of the Football League in 2018/19;
- Different formats for the Football League Trophy available;
- Opportunity to standardise promotion/relegation.
The proposal has been met with mixed reviews from lower league clubs.
“The Football League is to be absolutely applauded for coming up with an innovative and far-reaching approach and set of proposals,” Mark Devlin, the chief executive of the Championship side Brentford, told Sky Sports News. “These proposals are a really good start for how we can tackle some of the problems Football League clubs are facing.”
However, Bradford joint-chairman Mark Lawn, whose team are taking part in the League One play-offs, believes there is no need to change the current system."We've had this structure for years because it has suited the majority of clubs, so why change it?" said Lawn.
"What they don't understand is that currently we have 23 home games. We need the crowds. Losing four home games means we lose four incomes. It’s not so bad for us but for teams like Accrington and York that’s a lot of money. It’s ridiculous.”